Curators and archivists may sometimes come across the once-popular Quicktime format known as QTVR. Possibly as abandonware, or under a permissive licence, or freely released by the maker. The format offered a 360-degree picture in an immersive viewer and Web plugin. The equivalent experience today is ‘Google StreetView’ or ‘Facebook 360 pictures’, but with a genuine 360-degree view, able to look right up into the sky and right down at the ground under your virtual feet.

The defunct QuickTime is no longer a viable install due to major security risks. Yet it was once widely used. Not only for point-and-click CD-ROM games (Myst etc) and as output from 3D landscape software such as MojoWorld, but also for virtual tours of heritage sites. Some historians of the digital may thus have archives of this type of image that they now wish to convert to display as a 360 VR ‘bubble picture’ on Facebook / WordPress, or in HTML5. Videogame environments can also be captured and ported this way, enabling a better understand of an old videogame environment than is possible by simple screenshots. In the image(s) above you see a Half-life 2 videogame level.

I’m always keen to find ways to keep old media alive, especially if it has a permissive licence such as Creative Commons, and so this post is a quickstart on the practicalities of conversion.

QTVR is likely to be encountered in one of two formats. The six 90° × 90° still source images that form the sides of the viewing cube, or these same images compiled into a single .MOV Quicktime movie for display in the Quicktime Player.

.MOV format:

The $32 conversion utility Bixorama can import and convert the .MOV file, and output to a universal HTML5 viewer or other panorama formats.

6 x cube images:

My first thought was simple freeware utilities, but there don’t seem to be any that have a Windows GUI.

Next I thought to use my install of the panorama-assembler PTGui ($115). But I found my trusty and venerable old version of PTGui was a little too venerable, and thus could not handle a set of QTVR tiles. I then learned that PTGui only added support for QTVR tile import from version 8.2. But it was not until the recent 11.0 version that this workflow became easy and streamlined, and only in 11.2 (June 2018) that a major bug with this same workflow was fixed. Thus, if you don’t need the nice authoring tools of Pano2VR (see below), then using the latest PTGui 11.2 might save you $50.

However, today the easiest and slickest tool I found that could easily stitch the six cube images was the $170 Pano2VR 6.0. This is a full-fledged ‘virtual tour maker’ aimed at institutions, tourism businesses and real-estate, and as such it’s quite friendly and easy-to-use despite its obvious power. It can add clickable hot-spots and basically seems to be able to do what the old QuickTime Pro authoring tool could do.

Load the six image tiles via Pano2VR’s ‘Input’ button | ‘Cube Faces’ panel. You just link up each of the six cube tiles until a seamless 360 VR bubble panorama is created over in Pano2VR’s real-time previewer.

Then you export to either: i) the Pano2VR HTML5 viewer (requires a secure server to host); or ii) use the ‘QuickShare’ button (top right of the user interface) to get a Facebook 360-friendly image for upload. That remaps the assembled cube to a standard panorama projection and pops out a single .JPG image.

To Facebook 360: You then simply upload this .JPG to Facebook like any other picture. Facebook will recognise that the image is a panorama and needs to be shown inside a 360 VR bubble, without any need for special metadata. Note that Facebook tends to desaturate colour in pictures by about 10%, so you may want to boost the saturation before you upload.

To WordPress.com: WordPress.com free blogs now support embedding 360° VR pictures via a simple shortcode and a rather clunky viewer. But note you must host the image externally, and it can’t be called from the Media Library of the blog. WordPress.com’s Media Library often has difficulties with huge image uploads, and so presumably WordPress prefers not to encourage people to wrestle with uploading huge 30Mb panoramas. I’m uncertain if moving from free to paid would unlock this shortcode to support images in your Media Library.

To a WordPress based self-hosted blog, on your own webspace: Such blogs seem to have the above-mentioned shortcode functionality disabled. Apparently a security fix for WordPress knocked out a lot of shortcodes, a while back. Instead I chose to install the free plugin DImage 360. This is not over-complicated, yet does have the very nice feature of allowing visitors to ‘zoom-in’ as well as ‘pan around’ your panorama. Its embed code is as a simple as the official WordPress shortcode, and the source image can be hosted in your blog’s Media Library.


Ok, I hope that’s helpful, in terms of saving time for those tasked with converting old QTVR to a format we can view today.